By KAS CHANWANPEN
ANOTHER Future Forward Party leader may be hit with a criminal charge after member of Parliament Pannika Wanich came under the scrutiny of authorities |and ultra-royalists for an alleged anti-monarchy attitude going back nearly a decade.
The lese majeste allegation surfaced and put the MP as well as her affiliated party in a spot of bother after Pannika’s photos and posts on Facebook from nearly a decade ago were unearthed over the weekend.
The MP’s friends shown in the photos, who are also being accused of showing disrespect to the monarchy, were bombarded with insults by netizens angered by what they described as inappropriate poses.
Assistant National Police chief Pol Lt-General Piya Uta-yo said the authority was also concerned about social-media content as well as other similar cases, and had already ordered three taskforces – the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the legal department of the Royal Thai Police and the Special Branch Bureau – to look into it.
Piya said the taskforce would investigate whether or not Pannika and her friends had violated the computer crime law, the criminal law or the security law. The authorities could not immediately ascertain guilt and were waiting for all evidence to be gathered, he added.
Responding to a question on whether the case was politically motivated considering Pannika’s membership and role in the anti-junta Future Forward Party, Piya assured that the police did not discriminate against any particular groups of people but scrutinised everyone who had acted against the law.
Activist Srisuwan Janya, who has made several complaints against Future Forward and other parties, is expected to petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) today to scrutinise whether Pannika might have violated the ethical standards applied to all state authorities.
Thailand’s ethical standards prescribe that state officials uphold the primary institutions –the nation, the religion and the monarchy – as well as democratic rule with a constitutional monarchy.
Pannika on Sunday explained that the photo was taken in 2010 after the 2006 coup, when politically motivated allegations of lese majeste were prevalent. The photo was meant to reflect the tragedy of Thai politics, she said.
The MP apologised to those who were disturbed by the picture, but urged them to become aware of how younger people had grown up with questions about the exploitation of the monarchy to destroy political enemies.
Pannika has been among the leading figures in Future Forward, and has been in the spotlight even more in recent days after Parliament’s opening saw her taking part in parliamentary politics.
Prior to Pannika’s case, the youthful Future Forward had already been the subject of multiple lawsuits against them.
Despite many accusations, none of the party members have been charged with violating Article 112 that prohibits any insult of the monarchy.
Its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanookul have been imminent targets.
Ultra-royalists appear to view Future Forward as anti-monarchist though the party has consistently denied the allegation.
Even in the recent parliamentary debates, some MPs and senators had expressed their support to the military-led regime because they could at least trust the junta to be loyal to the monarchy.
However, Future Forward and Pannika appear to have retained support on the internet following the unearthing of the decade-old photos and posts.
#SavePannika trended as Thailand’s top hashtag in tweets, with tens of thousands of Twitter users sending the MP their moral support.
From the time of the 2006 coup until now, political critics have consistently expressed concern about the exploitation of the lese majeste law for political purposes.
They point to the frequent use of the draconian law to destroy political rivals rather than protect the monarchy.